One thing most people who drink with me with any regularity know is that I have a strong penchant for drinking IPAs, stouts, and craft beers. Some people are classy wine snobs. I, on the other hand, am a beer snob.
I’ve sampled many an interesting brew over the past year (since I really decided to experience the wide variety of beers available on the market), but none so intriguing as Dragon’s Milk, an ale out of a New Holland brewery that I picked up on a whim last night.
I found said beverage on a shelf in the back of Big 10, a smattering of single bottles of the stuff wedged between holiday six-packs. The fact that it was being sold solely by the bottle was enough to pique my interest, so I picked up a bottle and gave it a gander. At $4.79 per bottle, I figured this had to be a hell of a beer. Because it was my birthday and I was feeling pretty lonely, I decided to treat myself.
The bottle describes the brew thusly: An intriguing stout with soft, rich malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath.
It sounded awesome.
After a few glasses of cheap (yet delicious, unlike fucking Franzia) Arbor Mist, I decided to crack open the Dragon’s Milk and try it. It smelled of vanilla and mocha, much like Rogue Mocha Porter or Guinness. Or that delicious Old Rasputin Ale I tried the other night. Then I put the bottle to my lips.
That was the single most complicated explosion of flavor of any beer I’ve ever tasted. It started sweet, with the chocolatey smoothness of other beers I’ve tried, then it burst into this full-bodied oaky flavor. It was like drinking a smooth whiskey, without any of the burn. The taste then mellowed a bit, and the aftertaste was hoppy and had vague hints of vanilla.
For the same reason I love IPAs, I fell in love with this beer. A good IPA will give you a layered drinking experience, with the flavors blossoming through various stages of the drinking process. These beers are not imbibed to get one drunk. Rather, they are enjoyed and savored simply for the fine craftsmanship and exquisite taste. You nurse them, like a glass of good whiskey or a fine wine.
Maybe drinking beer isn’t considered all that classy to most people. Then again, most people only think of beer in terms of that swillwater that comes in 30 packs and is the staple of all college parties (PBR and Bud Light, you know I’m talking to you). But that’s like saying you don’t enjoy vodka because all you know is Burnetts or 5 o’clock or Popov, without having sampled Grey Goose or Absolut or Skyy. It’s like saying you hate root beer because you’ve tried Shasta Root Beer (all you Michiganders will not get this product reference, so… I think Faygo is what you have here?) but never had a proper mug from A&W.
Drinking beer may not be considered classy, but there is an art to the creation of a good beer. And some people appreciate that. For me, beer is not a means to an end- it’s a beverage I find as delightful as coffee or Diet Coke. It’s the flavor, not the drug effects, that pull me back to it again and again. I do not drink crap beer (or, at least, I don’t drink it willingly). I refuse to purchase anything that comes in more than a 6-pack (though, naturally, I prefer my beer from the tap). Maybe wine snobbery is more socially dignified, but I don’t care. Give me a good beer over wine any day.